The Hollywood Reporter's Chris Morris, citing a confidential source familiar with Tower Record's balance sheet, puts the company's debt to Warner Music Group's distributor WEA Corp. at $20 million. He suggests that total debt could total many times that amount, although he is just surmising. Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that three major record labels had cut off CD shipments to the storied music chain because bills weren't being paid. Since then, barely a peep has come out of Tower. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of speculation at the National Association of Recording Merchandisers convention in Kissimmee, Fla.
Most NARM attendees -- a group not known to harbor illusions -- believed that another Tower bankruptcy filing is imminent. Those with the bleakest view maintained that this time around, absent a buyer for the severely leveraged chain, a Chapter 7 liquidation could be in the offing. Many reacted to this scenario with horror. One afternoon late in the convention, I came across two independent retailers crouched on a divan in the empty halls of the Gaylord Palms Resort's convention center. The music business is not without its schadenfreude, but these savvy pros understood that Tower's woes could have an impact resonating well beyond the immediate fate of the chain itself.... Those indie retailers recognized that if Tower goes away -- and that is a distinct possibility -- it will be one more gloomy signal to the American consumer, who knows the Tower brand better than any competing retail logo, that the music business as we know it is over. And that's bad news for everybody.
That's being a bit melodramatic, since there's no word from the Sacramento-based chain on what's happening. But in the absence of any solid information, people are bound to make lots of assumptions.